WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- School starts at the end of the month for the traditional school year in Wake County and the district is already preparing parents for transportation changes.
The district's transportation department spent the summer adjusting to help get students to school on time and safely. They also worked to make sure there is little to no interruption to service, but Transportation Senior Director Bob Snidemiller, said to school board members on Tuesday it may be unavoidable.
There are 560 bus drivers and 55 full time permanent subs. Every full-time substitute driver will be assigned to a route if need be, to cover the 584 routes for the 22-23 school year. While there are enough drivers, some students can still feel the impacts of the driver shortage this school year if too many drivers call out on the same day.
"Our bus drivers are humans like the rest of us. They get sick and flu season comes along and we may exceed the 5% buffer that we have on any given day which unfortunately means we would have uncovered bus routes."
Also, the route to school for some Wake County bus riders will be longer this year. Students might not arrive to school until five minutes before the bell rings, but the goal is to get every student to school 15 minutes before class begins for the day.
The district is also stretching bus runs even more, which means some students could be forced to wait in the afternoon until the bus driver is finished with their first round of drop offs before getting picked up on the second run of drop offs.
In 2014 there were 900 available drivers. Now there are 615 available drivers. Over the last year, there were 106 resignations as of August 2. Some parents are working through the adjustments. Kim Maney has a sixth grader who is a bus rider. "With the lack of bus drivers, there's been some impact. We're having to drive her," said Maney.
"This makes parents adjust. I am never going to ask an individual to take less money to take less or you know than they deserve. So, if you want people to participate in these roles, then you have to pay them what they are worth, right a living wage," she continued.
The district offering sign on bonuses of $1,200 for bus drivers as well as an employee bonus of $1,200 during the school year. Bus drivers are also eligible for a $1,000 attendance bonus.